CNN Producer Criticizes Network's Russia Coverage in Undercover Video
The video, which arrives after three journalists resigned over a retracted Russia story, is from conservative provocateur James O'Keefe.
CNN has had a difficult few days. On Monday, three staffers resigned following the removal late last week of a reported article about a supposed congressional investigation into a Russian investment fund and a financier with ties to President Trump's administration.
On Tuesday, the network was hit with an undercover video, shot by a right-leaning government watchdog group, that purports to show a CNN producer critiquing the network's frequent coverage of potential collusion between Russia and the Trump administration.
In the nearly nine-minute-long video, an unidentified Project Veritas associate chats with John Bonifield, a supervising producer in the CNN Medical Unit. In the video, a person said to be Bonifield expresses the opinion that CNN is covering the Russia story primarily out of a desire to increase ratings and make more money.
When asked if the network's coverage of Russia is "bullshit," Bonifield responds, "Could be bullshit. I mean, it's mostly bullshit right now. Like, we don't have any giant proof." He also says that President Trump is "probably right" to accuse cable news, and CNN in particular, of pursuing a "witch hunt" against him and his administration.
"CNN stands by our medical producer John Bonifield," the network said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "Diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong, we welcome it and embrace it."
Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, promoted the video on Twitter. "For those who haven't seen this I urge you to watch," Trump said. "Now let's end the bs and let @realDonaldTrump focus 100% of his energy on #maga." President Trump tweeted that "they caught Fake News CNN cold." He also addressed the debunked Russia investigation story, writing that "Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down!" CNN's public relations Twitter accounted responded to the president's tweet by saying the network "just posted it's most-watched second quarter in history."
CNN just posted it's most-watched second quarter in history. Those are the facts.— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) June 27, 2017
The video, according to Project Veritas, the organization founded by longtime conservative filmmaker and trickster James O'Keefe, is the opening salvo in a campaign against the mainstream media called "American Pravda." A spokesman for the organization said the video was shot over multiple days in June, and that the Project Veritas employee who filmed Bonifield without his knowledge had been introduced to the CNN producer by a third party after expressing an interest in pursuing journalism as a career.
A source with knowledge of CNN told The Hollywood Reporter the network is not making a big deal about the video, which is seen by some internally as merely an employee expressing an opinion about the network's coverage, rather than revealing a bias against or for the president. The source mentioned also that Bonifield is not involved with the network's coverage of the administration.
CNN is not expected to levy any sort of punishment against Bonifield, nor will CNN president Jeff Zucker, who is mentioned in the video, discuss the network's coverage of Russia in the wake of the video.
O'Keefe has long targeted Democratic politicians and organizations seen to be aligning with left-leaning causes, such as a string operation against the organization ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) that resulted in a lawsuit against O'Keefe.